Imp’s Wrestling Adventure
A brand spanking new column image, nice and fresh for another week of WWE wrestling! It’s got AEW on it and everything, I’m ready for October dammit. The excitement’s real even if Smackers broke me a little this week. Hooray for the return of last minute rewrites.
Speaking of, yes I know the SmackDown image is changing soon, but the FOX one’s not been put out in a decent quality yet and I’d like to think I’ll be able to handle PNG swapping come the day of reckoning. So let’s all wave for one last goodbye run for the SmackDown Live logo, you weren’t a PNG, so your inclusion took me bloody ages.
This week WWE were LIVE from Madison Sqaure Garden, airing Monday Night RAW from the ‘world’s most famous stadium’ for the first time in 10 years. Obviously one of the talking points was how they brought back a couple of stars from the past to help shift those tickets, but at least this time those older blokes were actually used in a manner that seemingly benefited those who interacted with them.
For example yes AJ Styles got hit with a Stone Cold Stunner, but it was Cedric Alexander who delivered the man’s comeuppance to end the night. Steve Austin got the words, but the modern day lads got the actions and I don’t need to bang on about which one speaks louder. A fun night in New York, even if I’m not particular excited for the PPV it was the go home show for hyping. However, WWE’s in such a place that they’re in a sort of in a rebuilding phase from the recent damage done. The restructuring work is looking good but in the meantime the Sunday roast is looking a tad underdone.
Not forgetting in the middle of all this WWE are getting ready to move house, where the tenant’s warned them they won’t stand for falling ratings. Things are about to get very interesting, with the first change happening next week with NXT. But I’m getting ahead of myself, what about this week? How tasty were WWE’s offerings from the Garden? Were the shows from the Big Apple sweet or sour?
Monday Night RAW | SmackDown Live
September 9th– 10th 2019
If you wanna see me fill out this son bitch paperwork, gimme a hell yeah!
I’ve really not talked about the Rollins/Strowman arc yet… yeah, there’s a reason for that. A nice tibit for the future in regards to this column: I’m picking bits I find interesting or want to talk about, so when an angle from the show isn’t mentioned… yeah, there’s a reason for that. Like with this current Universal Championship build, it’s been fine.
Looking back, the trope of challenger and title holder becoming tag champs together hasn’t actually been done in quite a while. It was just booked so often in the Noughties that any fan from that era was officially burned of the idea. The last time this was done (challenger/champion, not team that splits into a match; see Wyatt/Orton, Miz/Shane) was way back in 2011 with John Cena & The Miz, not forgetting they were only champions for one show during their build to WrestleMania. You have to go even further back for the last time this kind of angle was carried out fully.
Yet I also somewhat agree with the fans moaning about this arc not feeling fresh at all, this is in fact not an angle they pull out all the time, but that doesn’t matter because for me the biggest thing is the lack of heat going in to this title match. The simple use of the trope isn’t the issue I’ve got, it’s merely the fact said trope hasn’t worked. There’s no heat for this match, the whole thing’s just very eh.
Look at who the crowd chanted for during this segment: Steve Austin, AJ Styles and Kazuchika ‘goddamn’ Okada. The context of the latter was indeed MSG calling back to their last wrestling main event, but it sure as hell does paint the picture of wrestlers they’re hot for. Neither of which are Seth Rollins or Braun Strowman, two acts who – in spite of the state of this summer – are in relatively good stead. It’s just that the build isn’t doing much for them, I have no anticipation for this match.
The angle between the pairing and The O. C. is great, how Cedric Alexander has risen as a US title challenger, this week’s multi-man main event was tons of fun, even their tag title run hasn’t been inherently bad. Bigger picture however, I don’t care about the match this is all meant to be building towards. Stories spinning off of it have more hype than the match itself, so at the end of the day the angle’s not exactly worked how they would have hoped.
It’s weird, the world of RAW feels 100 times more together and formed than any point of the past few months, but that cost of rebuilding has come at the price of the Universal title match not having that much steam. Honestly, long term it’s great to see the world below them getting built up, once this feud is done with or evolves the show will likely be all the better for it. For now though, I have few other words to describe the Rollins/Strowman arc than ‘eh’.
P. S. Also the fact they’re facing RooDolph at Clash of Champions really isn’t adding to any potential hype, a team together for an angle versus a newly formed duo from out of nowhere.
P. S. II There was a hilarious moment as Seth was being subjected to the, what? chant and he replied with, “I normally hate that, but because you’re here (Austin), I’m down with it!” A sentence that really came off as the truth and not a funny as hell sitcom moment. No, no you’re not, Seth. You still hate it. It’s all over your face.
Then after Seth referred to himself as the best wrestler on the planet, the MSG crowd initially booed a tad and then started chanting, “AJ Styles! Okada!” Poor Rollins, he’s not even the most over wrestler in his own promotion.
Food for thought: is there a most over wrestler in WWE? When the booking’s all over the place is it even possible for someone to reach that point?
2019 King of the Ring
Samoa Joe vs Ricochet vs Baron Corbin
Why do I want Big Banter Corbs to win this? What’s wrong with me? He’s gonna be so evil.
First off, my delighted surprise at duelling, “We want Corbin!” and “Corbin sucks!” chants. Our future King is getting over! Seriously, I can’t stress enough how the corny crown and sceptre gimmick for the winner is an absolutely perfect spot for Baron Corbin. He’s the perfect guy to think he’s all that and cool as hell, whilst actually looking like a complete nob.
In fact, all three men were getting cheers from different sections of the crowd. This tournament has gotten a whole load of different wrestlers support from the fans through their journeys to the final. We’ll see after the final and the success with the aftermath, but at this stage I think it’s fair to say the 2019 King of the Ring has been a resounding success.
This match was a big whole bowl of awesome, be it the time they had to flesh this out, the pace of it, Ricochet fighting the odds to get closer and closer to that victory. Both Joe and Corbin had strong periods during the match, but the momentum felt like it was building to swing back into the athletic man’s favour. Which exactly it did in fantastic fashion, as he’d all but won the match until Big Corbs spoilt the party and stole the win.
And what a great way for Corbin to win, paints him as a smart opportunist, but at the same time feels like the accolade wasn’t totally earned after stealing it post Ricochet’s big ass flippy doo. I really do rate the bald man in his current role, as did MSG apparently as a large section of the crowd wanted no one else to win. This tournament’s done wonders in swinging around his perception, creating genuine heat in the place of the go away heat he’s still somewhat got the stink of to this day.
Joe was great as well, really creating his own downfall in being too focused on proving he could beat Ricochet to also counter Corbin. A great tournament for the Samoan Submission Machine, we can now look forward to his continued rivalry with the super athletic long lost brother of a former Man United centre back.
Elias Shane McMahon vs Chad Gable
(w/Special Guest Referee: Kevin Owens)
Sorry Chad, “Ah shucks.”
Well it’s fair to say this second Semi-Final changed a tad.
From a Semi-Final clash between two competitors who had built up momentum over the course of a tournament, to an affair of authority shenanigans forcing Kevin Owens to ‘do it for his family’. Elias’ legitimate injury forced their hand, but it screamed a segment that hadn’t been properly thought through. Not as in being bad to watch – because it wasn’t – but in making sure the segment actually told the stories they wanted to tell and did it well – because it didn’t.
First off, who on Earth will buy KO as a badass after that angle? Because you know what, if this had ended at the first fall I would have bloody loved the thing. You could have even still done the same ending, if you must that is. Personally this seemed like a perfect time for Owens to hit the lad with a Stunner given the Austin aura still in the Garden. Or at the very least something less… submissive?
Alas, the Canadian had to be fired so they can set up whatever after he only just won a match to save himself from being fired. This is what last minute rewrites look like, often fine on the night but when you look at the bigger picture you’re like, “Yeah, hold on a second, why’ve you done that when this other thing also happened on your show?”
This is the exact kind of thing that pushed me the hell away from WWE over the summer, only this time there was at least a modicum of a forced hand given Elias’ sudden injury. I did find Shane McMahon pushing himself into this position as a call back to the World Cup last year to be so within character that I loved it, it’s just the shenanigans with Kevin Owens that made me question everything.
And secondly, poor Chad Gable who’s gotten over as hell only to be a secondary character in his own Semi-Final win. He’s been bloody fantastic as the underdog of the ring, with the route for him slowly appearing as NXT fans held the memories of amazing sequences between him and Corbin at Full Sail. I’d call this week a blip, but at least they didn’t break it all by doing something stupid like a Ricochet vs Shane McMahon final.
Suck it, now you’ve all got that song in your heads.
Oh yeah, and until this match I had no idea the King of the Ring Final was no longer taking place at Clash of Champions like originally announced. When did that change? Did I miss something or was this literally changed right at the end during the SmackDown rewrites? The latter screams WWE’s 2019 inconsistency, but I’m not exactly 100% invested and keeping tabs on everything they put out nowadays.
Clash of the Horsewomen
If looks could kill, they probably wouldn’t have won the match.
I was honestly one of those people who thought this was big enough to main event, especially after it both closed RAW and opened SmackDown last week. The hectic main event we did get was brilliant fun, so no grumps from me, but this tag match certainly had the atmosphere of a big match! A nice showing of the depth being gradually built post SummerSlam, multiple matches could have ended the show and felt perfectly right in that place. A great feeling to have, something that shows me there are a fair few segments I indeed do care about in WWE right now. How lovely.
I for one am really enjoying the current clashing of the NXT Horsewomen. There’s so much heat in this interweaving story, with the look backstage painting the perfect picture of what was to come. Sasha and Bayley a team on the same page, Charlotte and Becky staring holes in each other. But the enemy of my enemy is my friend and WWE went with the WrestleMania main eventers winning out in spite of their differences.
Lynch & Flair immediately went after their former allies, intensity written all over them. They were pissed as hell and couldn’t wait to beat the poor lasses to a pulp. Something that may have helped them in Madison Square Garden, but could this set up unfocused title matches come Clash of Champions? Little titbit, that show is taking place in Charlotte, NC, if there was any place for the SmackDown Women’s Championship to change…
I’ll leave that talk for after the PPV next week, as for this match I can’t praise it enough. I enjoyed every moment, from the initial pre-bell brawl, to Sasha & Bayley’s momentum swing, to Charlotte catching her COC opponent in somewhat of a surprise win. The new blue heels have lost their first match back together, but I have inkling Sunday might not go as swimmingly for our MSG victors.
Yes I know that contradicted my last sentence, basically the booking’s making me think one thing, the location the PPV another. If those championship matches are anywhere as heated as this tag match, then I really mind who wins. When the story and characters are building strong enough, I’m not going to judge the moment to moment, show to show happenings as harshly.
It’s when the story’s clearly being made up as we go that I get a tad antsy. Looking at you Roman Reigns storyline.
The gang have a season finale
This is it, the last one, the final 1 hour episode of NXT in the Network era. I’m really going to miss this shorter, easier going final note of the wrestling week. A pleasant post meal snack, like a restaurant giving you a chocolate mint on the way out. It’s lovely, delightful, but you wouldn’t necessarily want a second one.
Or would you? o_O
This is what we’re about to find out, as we dive head first into NXT’s foray onto national television. All the fans worries are there, all the promises to divert panic made, now all we can do is wait and see if the praise continues. Success or failure, this week marks the end of an era. The last week of WWE’s output what I watch only being 6 hours p/wk, then a couple of weeks after that the Wednesday night wars officially begin!
Just to repeat what I said last week, this first section will become more elaborated after the move to 2 hours. With NXT & AEW both being talked about in this section, as they’re head to head it somewhat makes sense. For this one last week though, you’ll be treated to a quick paragraph blasting through all the stuff that wasn’t the top notch main event.
Quick run down: Damien Priest hits his Not Crossroads finisher to beat Boa, I like to say that guy’s name like ‘Bow’ as that’s what the messengers in China would shout when they’ve got a report, “Bao! Bao!” I’m not making that up for a gag, that’s a genuine thing. Johnny Gargano came for a wee chat and got a singing ovation, then Superkicked an Australian to signify his American allegiance. Angel Garza took his clothes off but still got his fingers snapped by a brummie regardless. Raul Mendoza (and his beard because he’s a man now) lost to Cameron Grimes and his hat.
And Undisputed Era had one final message for us all before NXT’s move to the USA Network next week. Because as we all know, NXT’s rising success has all been because of them. And that’s Undisputed *insert hand pose*.
Shaner Baszler vs Rhea Ripley
Ripley on a chair > Bercow on the chair as Speaker of the House of Commons
Well wasn’t this an interesting final song for NXT’s 1 hour era. The present who was ready to move up like last year, versus the definite future who’s essentially just returned from excursion. Technically heel vs heel, but like I was saying with Charlotte/Bayley, it really doesn’t matter when the characters are this strong. Created such an interesting clash of egos, with Ripley unafraid to lay down the beatings with a chair and goad the champion.
This is the kind of match I’d use as an example to explain why I rate NXT so highly, it’s their smart way of telling us who the future is, whilst also explaining it’s not going to be her to challenge quite yet. Ripley’s rage holding her back and losing her chances as she beats the crap out of anyone who pisses her off, in the process protecting Baszler from having to defend against her immediately.
The NXT Women’s Champion tried her usual tactics, but Ripley’s ability to take the fight into a brawl forced the match into an entirely new, steel steps adjacent direction. One Electric Chair Drop later and the Champion was in dire need of help from clearly dangerous opposition, resulting in us not really seeing that much of these two in the ring together.
Although everything about it screamed ‘expect more’, especially with Regal telling Candice LeRae beforehand that if the Australian were to win she may be added to the #1 Contender’s match also. Who knows what happens now, with Ripley losing the match to disqualification after interference, but the brand’s first week of the USA/WWE Network crossover looks to be shaping up rather damn nicely.
Even without Ripley, the women’s match will consist Bianca Belair, Mia Yim, Io Shirai and Candice LeRae… colour me intrigued! Fair to say the NXT Women’s division has once again reached a strong as hell stage? Belair vs Taynara Conti from last week was great as well, hell of a time to reach a peak right when you’re about to debut on TV.
Imp’s RAW Grade – A party in the Garden with our cool Uncle.
Imp’s SD Live Grade – Rewritten into Mc‘Meh’on
Imp’s NXT Grade – One final treat of an hour that flew by. Farewell my friend, I’ll miss thee.
But now to hear from you, what did you think? What did you make of this week’s RAW/SmackDown/NXT? Are you happy with the King of the Ring Final? What did you make of Kevin Owens’ firing? Does Clash of Champions have your attention this Sunday?
Comment below, rate and click an emoji too if you’re that way inclined. I’ll be here to reply and chat this weird wrestling world.
Imp’s most recent columns:
Imp’s Wrestling Adventure – A Little Bit of the Bayley (RAW, SD Live & NXT, Aug 5th 2019)
Imp’s RAW Adventure – Baddie Blue Banks Bashes Becky | Aug 26th 2019
Imp’s RAW Adventure – Seth Rollins & The Brown Straw Man | Aug 19th 2019
NJPW G1 Climax Finals Review – Top 5 Matches & MVP feat. Imp & Sam
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – The Story of Hiroshi Tanahashi Part 1: Becoming The Ace